Understanding How Child Support Works For a Child With Special Needs

Parental responsibilities for a child with special needs vastly differ from those with non-special needs children. One of the differences in responsibilities includes child support for a child with special needs even after the child turns 18. This is a sensitive and well-debated issue. In this blog post, we will provide more information about the considerations you will need to take for a child with special needs beyond his or her 18th birthday.


Many parents wonder whether or not they should ask or provide continuous child support even after their special needs child turns 18.



Understanding Child Support Laws in Texas



As you are probably well-aware, each state has its own child support laws that may differ from that of the other states. When it comes to Texas child support laws, you can always refer to the Texas Family Code for further information. However, we will summarize it for you. The child support obligation in Texas usually ends when the child graduates from high school or turns 18, whichever of the two events occur later. This is typically stated in the final decree of divorce. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the paying parent cannot provide child support should he or she chooses to support the child further.  However, at this point, child support is generally no longer an obligation for the paying parent.


The thing is, things can be different for children with special needs. Unlike non-special needs children, they might not be able to provide for themselves the moment they turn 18 or graduate from high school. This doesn’t mean that a child with special needs won’t be able to support himself or herself forever. There are many cases when adults with disabilities can support themselves fully, however, it might require more time and training compared to adults who do not have special needs.



Being a Parent to a Child With Special Needs



If you are the parent who is obligated to pay child support to for your child with special needs, you surely know how heavy it can be financially. On the other hand, if you are the other parent, you know for sure that it’ll be hard to get by and provide the needs of your special needs child without the child support money. Therefore, if you belong to a family with a special needs child, you certainly have a lot of stuff on your plate.


The State of Texas has acknowledged the need for extending the child support obligation of a parent of a child with special needs. The State often justifies an extension of the child support obligation of the paying parent past the eighteenth birthday of the child.



Providing and Receiving Child Support for a Special Needs Child Over the Age of 18



The Texas Family Code provides an option to extend the paying parent’s child support obligation beyond the special needs child beyond his or her 18th birthday. However, there are certain requirements before child support can be extended for a

special needs child beyond his or her 18th birthday. Before the court will issue an order to extend child support for a special needs child beyond the age of 18, you need to prove that the child needs personal care and supervision due to their condition.


You must also prove in court that the child is not able to support himself or herself financially after the age of 18 in order to get the child support extension granted.



Considerations of a Parent



As a parent of a child with special needs, it is imperative that you consider the future needs of your child. It does not really matter whether you are the parent who is set to make the child support payments or the parent who is supposed to receive them. During your divorce or your child custody case, it will be helpful if you are already considering your child’s future. If you are aware of what your child will need beyond 18 as early as your divorce process, it will give you an opportunity to negotiate with the other parent regarding provisions that can be included in the final order of the court.


Making sure that this gets dealt early will save you a lot of stress in the future and you can also ensure that the future of your child is secure.



What If Your Child Develop Special Needs After The Divorce or Child Custody Case?



There are some cases when this does happen. A child who is perfectly well prior to the child custody case or a divorce can develop special needs after the court orders have been finalized. Obviously, the previous decision of the court will no longer be a perfect match for the child’s needs. Hence, you can come back to the court, file another lawsuit and make requests regarding the care of your child. Even an adult child can file for an extension of child support, but in most cases, it’s usually one of the parents who file for such extensions.



Court Considerations



The judge in the court that handles your child support case will have several things to consider. This includes weighing the care your child requires as well as the level of attention and supervision needed in providing appropriate care for your child with special needs. The judge will also consider the type of support each parent will have to provide for your child. If you are the parent who is usually on the receiving end of child support payment, you are not exactly exempted from providing support after your child with special need turns 18.


There are cases when adult children with special needs are granted the ability by the court to receive child support directly from either or both parents. The law does not say outright how much support needs to be paid once your child turns 18. However, the judge will consider the future needs of your child, including medical attention and assistance of a third-party when he decides how much should be paid. The judge will also consider the financial resources you have access to, in deciding the amount of the child support payments beyond your child’s 18th birthday.


If you are convinced that your child requires child support even after he or she turns 18, it’s best to be proactive. Contact an experienced family law attorney today for more information and assistance.


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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at

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